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Our Sound Bite Society: The Media Is The Message

Posted Mar 04 2009 2:52pm

 

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

 

America’s present healthcare crisis is neither a Democratic nor a Republican issue. It is an American issue. It can be solved logically and swiftly using common sense. Let the American consumers control their healthcare dollars. Provide consumers with financial incentives for wise healthcare purchases and education for good health maintenance to prevent the onset of a chronic disease.

President Obama’s healthcare team is setting up a healthcare system where the government will make the healthcare choices for Americans. Ultimately government will ration care.

Daily, Americans are overwhelmed by bad news sound bites. For years we have heard that our healthcare system is broken. It is broken because the government has broken it. Only 20% of the people are sick at any one time. The other 80% do not think there is a problem with the healthcare system. In the last 25 years most Americans have heard of or experience horror stories about the dysfunctional healthcare system. The goal should be to repair the problems and not impose another dysfunctional healthcare system on us.

First, it was HMO’s and the restrictions of access to care. Then, it was Managed Care. Managed Care turned out to be managed costs and restrictions on access to care. Then, it was the ever increasing healthcare insurance premiums. Now, it will be the government‘s experiment with a single party payer system. An experiment that is destined to fail.

The Bush administration did nothing about repairing the healthcare system. Correction. Everything President Bush tried to do the congress rejected. The healthcare insurance industry and its executives made grotesques profits while restricting access to medical care and decreasing physician reimbursement.

Medicare and Medicaid’s costs have continued to rise. The healthcare insurance industry controls Medicare’s dollars. The Bush administration did nothing to stop it. The Bush administration recognized that bureaucratic entitlements would destroy our economy. The administration tried to get rid of the Medicare entitlement by providing a bonus to the healthcare insurance industry for the takeover of Medicare with Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D. The cost to seniors and the profit to the healthcare insurance industry has been huge.

Neither Republicans nor Democrats in congress have done anything logical to fix the healthcare system. The executive and legislative branches have only generated greater mistrust among all the stakeholders in the healthcare system.

Congress knows the increasing Medicare costs are unsustainable. The Congressional Budget Office predicts a 100 TRILLION dollars per year deficit for Medicare alone in 50 years.

Why would a responsible member of congress or the executive branch want to increase an entitlement that does not work to included the entire population?

Today’s sound bites have frightened most of the population. Americans are anxious to be rescued by anything that sounds good. All that is needed is a well crafted public relations campaign of sound bites promising salvation.

Liberal Democrats have put together such a public relations campaign. President Obama has captured the lead to be society’s savior. It does not matter whether his proposals are logical or if they will work. It sounds good. America is ready to go for it.

Republicans are feeling overwhelmed. They intuitively understand that a government controlled single party payer system will not work. Massive government programs have not worked effectively in the past. Why should they work now? Consumers should be empowered to make their own decisions. Government should not make decisions for them.

An organization call the “Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Healthcare , the national single pay alliance” has crafted such a public relationship program. They have cobbled together a group of social networks to express the anger and fears felt by the American public. Their sound bites are compelling.

President Obama will play off these social networks to force his change in the name of goodness and justice for all. It is Tom Daschle’s doctrine. Most of the proposals will fail. They will fail not because they are unjust. They will fail because the route to achieve them is wrong. The costs will be unmanageable as we have seen in the Massachusetts experiment..

The sound bites are indeed compelling:

  1. Everybody In, Nobody Out.Universal means access to health care for everyone, period.
  2. Portability.If you are unemployed, or lose or change jobs, your health coverage stays with you.
  3. Uniform Benefits.No Cadillac plans for the wealthy and Pinto plans for everyone else, with high deductibles, limited services, caps on payments for care, and no protection in the event of a catastrophe. One level of comprehensive care for everyone, regardless of the size of your wallet.
  4. Prevention.By removing financial roadblocks, a universal health system encourages preventive care that lowers an individual's ultimate cost and pain and suffering when problems are neglected and societal cost in the over-utilization of emergency rooms or the spread of communicable diseases.
  5. Choice.Most private insurance restricts your choice of providers and hospitals. Under the U.S. National Health Insurance Act, patients have a choice, and the provider is assured a fair payment.
  6. No Interference with Care.Caregivers and patients regain their autonomy to decide what's best for a patient's health, not what's dictated by the billing department. No denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions or cancellation of policies for "unreported" minor health problems.
  7. Reducing Waste.One third of every private health insurance dollar goes for paperwork and profits, compared to about 3% under Medicare, the federal government's universal system for senior citizen healthcare.
  8. Cost Savings.A guaranteed health care system can produce the cost savings needed to cover everyone, largely by using existing resources without the waste. Taiwan, shifting from a U.S. private health care model, adopted a similar system in 1995, boosting health coverage from 57% to 97% with little increase in overall health care spending.
  9. Common Sense Budgeting.The public system sets fair reimbursements applied equally to all providers, private and public, while assuring that appropriate health care is delivered, and uses its
    clout to negotiate volume discounts for prescription drugs and medical equipment.
  10. Public Oversight.The public sets the policies and administers the system, not high priced CEOs meeting in private and making decisions based on their company's stock performance needs.

Who can argue with any of these points? The major question is can a government bureaucracy administer this system effectively without impinging on citizens’ choices, rights and freedoms.

Is this the solution to the high incidence of chronic disease and the dysfunctional healthcare system?

My answer is no. Americans are being duped once more by cool sound bites.

The Alliance has put together interesting groups. They have used the internet to leverage the Alliance. They have used the same technique that President Obama used to become President. They have formed giant social networks and put them together. President Obama can easily play off this coalition as evidence for the need by the public for a single party payer system.

The social networks and President Obama have outflanked common sense. They have created a false hope and it will fail to repair the healthcare system. .

Leadership is needed to formulate a common sense strategy to solve the healthcare system’s dysfunction for all American at every socioeconomic level. Neither the Democrats or the Republicans have such a plan.

The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” are, mine and mine alone.

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